You climb several staircases with metal doors screening out the rest of Manhattan to meet JB Benn. But then his apartment’s high ceilings and artifacts from every corner of the Earth make you feel you’ve inadvertently uttered “Open Sesame” and time and space are as fluid as they are in your imagination. For Benn, the hand isn’t just quicker than the eye-it accelerates your consciousness. “I basically do miracles in front of people,” he explains. “l’m going to bring you through magic to a higher state of awareness.” As he says this, Benn nonchalantly makes silver half-dollars appear and reappear, and turns a deck of cards into a parade of lively faces and numbers playing peekaboo on his dinner table.
“Magic entered my life completely by accident,” says Benn, who moved to the U.S. from Spain 23 years ago, when he was 2. Feats of magic began to intrigue him when he was around 7, but it was in his teens that he “discovered I was really good at magic, and had some kind of deeper connection to it.” Now Benn performs in the States half the year. The rest of the time he pursues “his greatest inspiration”: traveling to the least explored corners of the world to watch and do magic. “I go to the most faraway places nobody’s even heard of, like Burkina Faso in West Africa,which has an amazing tradition of magic.” There he has met shamans, conjurors, and healers, whose wisdom has brought “a reenergized fierceness” to his work. “Magic is what the unexplainable is. It’s religion or anything people don’t understand. Where the universe comes from- that’s magic.”
Patrick Giles is an Associate Editor at Interview
INTERVIEW February 2001